Australia: Results released for The Legal 500 Asia Pacific legal directory, 2019 edition
Last Updated: 24 January 2019

The Legal 500, one of the leading legal directories in Asia Pacific, has announced its results for the 2019 edition.

The Legal 500 rankings are based on feedback from 250,000 in-house peers and law firm's deals and confidential matters, which are independently assessed by The Legal 500 researchers. As stated by The Legal 500: "The rankings are based on a series of criteria, but simply put, we highlight the practice area teams who are providing the most cutting edge and innovative advice to corporate counsel."

Summary of our results:

  • 38 partners and senior lawyers recognised as ranked lawyers within their practice area.
  • Partner Scarlet Reid is listed as a Leading Individual for Labour and employment: workplace health and safety (WHS).
  • McCullough Robertson was recognised in 14 practice areas.

Practice area commentary (as written by The Legal 500):

Banking and finance (ranked tier 5)

McCullough Robertson's primarily Brisbane-based practice regularly acts for lender and borrower clients in real estate investment and development transactions; it recently advised LEPC9 on a syndicated secured loan facility for its acquisition of the Channel 9 site in New South Wales and acted for Hutchinson Builders on a syndicated facility for the provision of working capital and contractual bonding facilities. The team is also active in the corporate finance arena. Other mandates include team head Peter Stewart assisting Greensill Capital with a receivables financing, special counsel Peter Kennedy leading advice to Corporate Travel Management on its establishment of a A$185m club facility, and Sydney-based David Gilham handling all debt financing issues for Global Student Accommodation including a development loan facility and a land acquisition facility. Rural Funds Management, the Bank of Queensland, ANZ and AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets are also clients.

Capital markets (ranked tier 4)

McCullough Robertson handles ECM transactions with notable expertise in primary and secondary raisings in the small to mid-cap sector, particularly in the resources, industrial, life sciences, travel, technology and start-up fields. The primarily Brisbane-based group includes Derek Pocock, Reece Walker, Jim Peterson and Diana Lohrisch with group head Adrian Smith and Ben Mortimer practising out of the firm's Sydney office. Walker recently led advice to Wagners on its ASX listing and related restructuring, Pocock acted for State Gas on its IPO, and also assisted Megaport with its A$28m private placement and institutional placement to aid with the expansion of the group's international platform. Metro Mining, Oventus Medical and KGL Resources are also clients.

Construction (ranked tier 4)

Leveraging its strong Brisbane presence, McCullough Robertson acts for domestic and international corporates as well as government departments; its team has seen an increase in building-related carbon emission and environmental sustainability matters. The contentious practice features a strong arbitration and mediation offering. Michael Rochester leads the five-partner team, which includes the recommended Matt Bradbury; the latter continues to advise NewCold on developing large cold storage facilities across Australia, requiring the coordination of design, civil and construction packages. Rochester assists Chinese Yuhu Group with its multibillion-dollar Jewel development on the Gold Coast, one of the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Ren Niemann assists AVID Property Group with a number of front- and back-end matters, and advises the Gold Coast City Council on three separate construction projects. Jason Munstermann joined from the now-defunct firm Henry Davis York.

Corporate and M&A (ranked tier 4)

McCullough Robertson's practice, headed by Damien Clarke, maintains its strong presence in Queensland but has significantly sharpened the profile of its Sydney offering, where Adrian Smith increasingly attracts cross-border work, frequently referred form overseas firms. In a recent cross-border matter Smith advised the majority shareholders on the sale of Krispy Kreme Australia and New Zealand to its US licensor, Krispy Kreme Doughnut. The Sydney team has been further bolstered by now-defunct firm Henry Davis York's former practice co-head Ben Mortimer and his team. Advising small to mid-cap public and private transactions in the resources, technology, media and agribusiness sectors are the team's strengths, but the 14-partner practice increasingly acts for financial services clients. In a recent example, Mortimer assisted Westpac with its further investment in fintech mortgage broking company Uno Home Loans. Reece Walker and Jim Peterson advised Viralytics on its acquisition by Merck & Co, a transaction that represents the greatest sum ever offered for a local drug developer in the history of Australian biotech.

Dispute resolution (ranked tier 4)

McCullough Robertson's 'efficient, effective and exceptionally responsive' practice is commended for its 'practical approach'. Agribusiness, construction and natural resources disputes are its core strengths; Peter Stokes, who 'seamlessly instructs large teams and gets the best out of his lawyers', continues to act for Adani in arbitration proceedings against John Holland regarding delays and changes to the Abbot Point coal terminal in Queensland. Guy Humble heads the group; 'outstanding communicator' Russell Thirgood, restructuring and insolvency specialist Scott Butler and regulatory expert Tim Case are other names to note. Commercial litigation and regulatory head Jason Munstermann joined from now-defunct firm Henry Davis York.

IT and Telecoms (ranked tier 3)

McCullough Robertson has attracted a diverse range of interesting matters; it continues to assist Telstra's wireless team with its connected car initiatives, and Police Bank, a mutual financial institution servicing the police community, instructed the team to review its compliance with privacy laws. The team also advises IT and cybersecurity consultancy Alcorn Group, which carries out tests to identify IT security weaknesses, on testing engagements with blue-chip corporate and government entities. Former Henry Davis York TMT practice head Matthew McMillan bolstered the nine-partner team, which is led by Alex Hutchens. Paul McLachlan advises on technology, social media and competition and consumer issues.

Insurance (ranked tier 4)

McCullough Robertson predominantly acts for policy holders and handles both contentious and non-contentious matters. Key focus areas for the team include advising parties to disputes in the construction, resources, financial services and utilities sectors, as well as handling front-end advisory work. The firm has an allied insurance broking business and assists clients with bespoke policies as part of a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway. Brad Russell leads the one-partner practice.

Intellectual property (ranked tier 3)

Belinda Breakspear's team at McCullough Robertson advises clients such as on brand protection and management matters. It has continued to grow its contentious capacities; Breakspear acts as opposition of 120 new trade mark applications across nine jurisdictions on behalf of the Australian Agricultural Company. Terry White Chemmart instructs the team to handle international enforcement mandates. Litigator Peter Stokes in Brisbane and Alex Hutchens and Paul McLachlan, both in Sydney, are singled out. The team has been bolstered by the addition of Matthew McMillan, who joined from now-defunct firm Henry Davis York, and special counsel Caroline Law-Walsh from Hewlett-Packard.

Labour and Employment (ranked tier 4)

McCullough Robertson excels in the public sector and counts various government departments and city councils as clients; it recently defended Goondiwindi Regional Council in a claim brought by two employees alleging adverse action had been taken against them following complaints they had made, represented Brisbane City Council in a hearing before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to determine whether it could ballot its workforce without obtaining union approval, and is advising Queensland Health on issues surrounding nurses' and midwives' annual leave. Michael Moy leads the department, which also includes health, aged care and education sector expert Tim Longwill and newly promoted special counsel Lydia Daly.

Natural resources (transactions and regulatory) (ranked tier 3)

McCullough Robertson has a strong track record of coal-sector work, but increasingly attracts base metal matters and is one of the few firms advising on uranium mining issues. Practice head Damien Clarke assisted Malabar Coal with its acquisition of Anglo American's 88.17% interest in the Drayton thermal coal mine and Drayton South project as well as the acquisition of the remaining 11.83% interest from minority shareholders. Louise Horrocks assisted Bounty Mining with the purchase of the Cook Colliery coal mine and mining assets from the liquidator, involving secured creditors issues. Whitehaven Coal instructed the team on its purchase of the remaining 30% stake in its Boggabri mine in New South Wales. The 22-partner practice also includes Jim Peterson, Derek Pocock and John Kettle, and can draw on the firm's strong workplace health and safety (WHS) and dispute resolution capabilities in the sector.

Project Development (ranked tier 4)

McCullough Robertson is particularly strong in the energy and resources sector, but is fleshing out its infrastructure offering. It is advising the Gold Coast city council on a number of infrastructure projects, and is assisting Charles Sturt University with the expansion of its new campus at Port Macquarie. Mining-sector work is a strength; it acted for New Hope in relation to infrastructure aspects of the proposed Acland 3 mine, and is advising QCoal on the Byerwen mine development in Queensland. In the waste sector, significant work included advising Suez in relation to its tender for the Kimbriki resource recovery facility PPP project. Ren Niemann leads the 14-partner team, which includes Matt Bradbury and Tim Hanmore.

Real estate (ranked tier 4)

Ian Hazzard and Kristan Conlon jointly head the practice at McCullough Robertson, which has expanded in Sydney through the arrivals of Eva Vicic from Colin Biggers & Paisley and Marianne Lloyd-Morgan from Hickey Lawyers. Hazzard is well regarded for work in the hotels, resorts and integrated communities sectors and Conlon is an expert in retail, commercial and industrial leasing, sales, acquisitions and structuring. The team frequently acts for overseas investors and developers and advised Chinese R&F Properties on its Central Gardens project in Queensland. The team also assists LEPC9, a joint venture of Lotus Capital Asset Management and Hong Kong-based Euro Properties, on the acquisition and proposed development of the site currently housing Channel 9's Sydney studios. Infrastructure projects matters are an additional strength of the team.

Restructuring and insolvency (ranked tier 5)

McCullough Robertson's Brisbane-based cross-disciplinary team specialises in alternative solutions in times of distress including workouts, turnaround and restructuring solutions; it also handles the enforcement of securities, debt recovery and insolvency issues. Practice head Scott Butler's recent work includes advising the directors and shareholders of Ostwald Brothers on its voluntary administration and recapitalisation via DoCA, acting for PwC as receivers and managers of NQ Group on a Personal Property Securities Act issue, and assisting the Australian government Department of Jobs and Small Business with issues relating to the recovery of amounts paid by the Commonwealth government under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Scheme regarding the liquidation of companies in the McAleese and Rivet Groups. KordaMentha, Grant Thornton and Bounty Mining are also clients.

Tax (ranked tier 4)

McCullough Robertson handles tax auditions, settlement negotiations, restructures, transactions as well as debt and equity fundraisings. Mining and resources sector expert Damien Clarke advised Malabar Coal on its acquisition of the Drayton and Drayton South assets from their joint venture owners. Duncan Bedford is another name to note and specialises in business structuring and taxation; he assisted Viralytics with its acquisition by Merck Sharp & Dohme. Brisbane-based practice head Hayden Bentley focuses on corporate taxation. Mark West departed to set up his own firm.

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